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How Trump’s Rise Can Make You a Better Person

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HOW TRUMP’S RISE CAN MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON

Here’s something good about the rise of trump™. (I know, I’m grasping at straws.)

This is a chance for us to become better people. I don’t mean just being better citizens, although that’s great — being vigilant about what our government is up to and who is getting rich because of it, standing up for people who are being bullied or intimidated, gathering with our neighbors to protect our communities — no, I mean actually becoming better human beings.

You know how they say that the behavior that drives you crazy about someone else is likely lodged deep inside of you, too? We have visceral responses to unwanted aspects of our own personalities. Oftentimes, this is unconscious; we are not even aware that we have the same attitude or behavior that’s driving us nuts in someone else.

When you are annoyed by someone, try searching your own heart, especially if you sense you might be overreacting. Might as well look at your own crap, because there’s nothing you can do to change them. Why not work on changing yourself? If you are successful, you will find compassion for that annoying person and peace for yourself.

This is not a new idea and it’s not my idea. The Bible says to take the splinter out of your own eye before you start prying the plank out of someone else’s eye.

Old lumber and two by fours stacked in a wood pile. Shallow depth of field.

Pathological Neediness

Back to trump™. There’s a lot not to like in him, and I won’t go through the list. You know it. Ugliness and brokenness.

One of my heroes, Father Thomas Keating, says that we all carry childhood emotional needs into adulthood, and they become distorted if they weren’t met in childhood: safety & security, power & control, and esteem and affection. Trump™ has all of them to a pathological degree.

What horrifies me most about him is the esteem and affection bit: his endless need for recognition, his boundless self-glorification, his screaming craving for adoration. He thought money would buy him love, but now he’s not sure if he is loved for his money or for himself. He is abusive to anyone who criticizes him, and he is transparently manipulated by anyone who compliments him.

Hence Putin. Soooo dangerous.

My Splinter

The thing is, I can relate to his emptiness. I have been praying for many years for God to change that very trait in me. I *hate* how much I want people to like me and recognize me. It makes me do and say things that don’t come from my true self; it makes me a hostage to other people’s opinions.

And it’s nuts. I’m a grown woman with gifts and skills and with shortcomings and annoying traits. At times I rock out and at times I screw up. I have a ton of friends who love me regardless. And God loves me so much I ought to have no time to ponder anything but my response to Her spirit.

For some reason, God leaves this thorn in my side. It’s better than it used to be, but I am still painfully aware of it. It’s OK, though. It humbles me. I try not to obsess about my shortcomings, because in the end that’s just being self-absorbed, but I want to recognize them and offer them up to God for fixin’.

So here’s the good thing about the rise of trump™ that I promised: this is an opportunity for you to call out the negative in yourself. Which of his many unpleasant traits really annoy you? And — is it possible that you host them inside yourself?

This inaugural week, in recognition and protest of the new president, let’s work on making ourselves better people. 

And I just want to say God bless Barack and Michelle.

Thank you for your dedication and love for our country and its people.

Be well.

single-rose_gy3jqwdu

Admiring Humility

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“Whom do you admire?” It saddens me that an answer doesn’t come easily to me. When I was young, I admired all manner of people – rock stars, teachers, politicians, TV actors, scientists, activists, writers, you name it.

Nowadays not so much.

I admire certain aspects of many people, but finding an admirable whole is harder, especially a person in the public arena. I do admire the heck out of Barack Obama. He’s one of a kind, a class act, and I’m so, so grateful he pulled us out the mess we were in after the Bush years. I’d vote for a third term in a flash.

Barack-Obama-portrait-PD

Four More Years!

Other than Barack? Hmmm…

The virtue I most admire is humility, and it’s very hard to find. I am quick to identify a person’s need for approval, recognition, honor, esteem, or affection, and it turns me off big-time. The pathological version of this represented by Donald Trump utterly repulses me. Why? Because those needs are so very strong in me, and I can’t stand them! I want God to remove them immediately. But I fear the reason I long for humility in myself is at least partly so that other people will admire my humility. Which is probably why God lets me stew in my neediness.

Sigh.

Famous people aside, there are a number of humble people in my church that I admire, some suffering with disease or depression or physical pain, some teaching in troubled, low-income school districts, some caring for elderly parents, some carrying unimaginable grief, some sacrificing their time and freedom to adopt or foster or mentor needy kids. I am glad for these role models.

Thanks to WordPress for the word prompt: Admire, and I’ll leave you with Mother Theresa’s advice on cultivating humility:

To speak as little as possible of one’s self.

To mind one’s own business.

Not to want to manage other people’s affairs.

To avoid curiosity.

To accept contradictions and correction cheerfully.

To pass over the mistakes of others.

To accept insults and injuries.

To accept being slighted, forgotten and disliked.

To be kind and gentle even under provocation.

Never to stand on one’s dignity.

To choose always the hardest.”

Unfriending a Facebook OOPS

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Although I doubt I’m going to my upcoming high school reunion, perusing the Facebook page has been a blast. Lots of old familiar faces, with an emphasis on the “old.”

One guy, who will remain nameless because I’m about to cast aspersions, especially caught my attention. We were in school together all the way through, twelve years. I had a crush on him in fifth grade. Course, I had a crush on a lot of guys in the fifth grade.

Anyway, there was his smiling face and without thinking, I clicked the Friend button. A few minutes later, I was confirmed and decided to visit his page.

You can tell a lot from the places someone visits. He lives in Florida now. Let’s see – Sand Trap Bar, Roo’s Pub, Party Central, Sail Inn Bar, Heads and Tails Lounge . . . all over a twenty hour period. Hmmm. Either this guy is a busy peanut salesman or we may have an issue here. It’s not even a weekend.

Lots of baseball and beer posts. Yawn.

Uh-oh.

Strike one: Posting a photo of a typical traffic tie-up on the D.C. Beltway (which is actually from 2008) and claiming that the Truckers for the Constitution have shut down the city and the liberal media is hushing it up. Well, I don’t know, I guess there are worse things than conservative conspiracy theorists. I have a few other Facebook Friends like that.

Traffic in 2008 that has nothing to do with the fact that only a couple of truckers showed up to “shut down D.C.” last weekend.

Strike two: A photo of a red and white Obama urinal-target poster with an additional comment, “Let’s impeach the Kenyan!” Don’t tell me he’s one of these guys who thinks Obama isn’t an American . . . oh, it gets even better: “Get the Taliban out of the White House!” Oh wow – here’s a photo of a dog taking a crap and the President of the United States is coming out of its rear end. Thanks for that. Seriously, this guy has retained his scatological fifth grade humor.

I’m kind of fascinated by people like this. I consider staying “friends” with him just to keep an eye on the breeding grounds for future Tea Party nut cases. But then:

A big strike three: He posts a photo of two young black guys in the VFW where he had gone to have a few quiet drinks with “people like him.” He leaves the VFW after protesting that they aren’t enforcing the veterans-only rule and should not welcome “self-entitled persons” like those pictured. He muses that the reason these guys don’t have a job is because they couldn’t pass drug tests. It apparently doesn’t occur to my ex-friend that the guys might be military. Or even employed.

African-American Soldier

I’m sorry to share this unpleasant story. Maybe you see a lot of this; I don’t, thank God. I just wanted  to remind my white friends that racism is far from dead. People of color already know this. I won’t even go into the comments from this guy’s other “friends.” Suffice to say, the N Word is alive and unashamed in Florida.

Unfriend.

African-American President: Get Over It

African-American President: Get Over It

Official White House Obama photo by Pete Souza

Colin Powell photo in public domain

.

A Bit of Fluff in Obama’s Ear

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“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”  Wise words from Winnie-the-Pooh.

Thank God the bit of fluff that’s been lodged in President Obama’s ear when it comes to Syria seems to have been dislodged, at least for the time being.

Original Winnie the Pooh stuffed toys. Clockwi...

A cabinet meeting of Winnie-the-Pooh’s top advisors . . . might they bring some wisdom to the conundrum in Syria? (Photo:Wikipedia)

Miracles Happen

It was with a great sense of anxiety that my book group crowded onto the sofa to watch Obama’s speech on Tuesday night. Earlier, when we had been discussing an O’Henry short story, the chips and cheese had been rapidly disappearing from the bowls on the coffee table, but once Obama reached the podium, the snacking stopped and the silence fell.

Several of us had prayed and fasted through lunch the day before, along with hundreds from our church, on behalf of a peaceful solution in Syria. And it did feel like a miracle when half-way through his speech, Obama began to back away from the cliff.

My friend Shobha looked incredulous, her brown eyes wide and teary. “An answer to our prayers,” she said.

Trying to Trust

I never did trust George W. and all his war justifications. With all due respect (due being the operative word here), I think he was an idiot who was just the puppet of a bunch of neo-con war-mongers.

But I want to at least try to trust Obama; I voted for the guy. I like him personally, although I’ve been disappointed by him in many ways. I almost wanted him to persuade me of the wisdom of bombing Syria because I was so certain he was going to do it, and I didn’t want to lose all faith in his wisdom.

But I have not been persuaded; not in the least.

“Think it Over, Think it Under” (Pooh)

One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, wrote on her Facebook page September 8th:

“But isn’t this one reality–that the most fastidiously trained and learned people in the government, military, humanitarian and diplomatic fields, can’t figure out the right move — reason enough to hold off bomb strikes for the time being?”

Even my very conservative neighbor Pat, with whom I rarely agree about anything except the weather, agrees on Syria. Don’t bomb. Not now. What is the hurry? Her grandson is in the Army, somewhere in the Middle East, but he can’t tell her where.

I have only one friend who supports the bombing, and he’s one of those one-issue kind of guys. Israel is his issue, and peace is not his strategy. He might feel differently when his little boy reaches military age.

Otherwise, ambivalence is the strongest support for Obama’s position that I’ve heard.

Gratitude

I plan to do some volunteering this weekend. I want to serve out of the abundance of gratitude I am feeling.

I like to think it was the people who postponed this folly. That now and then, regular folks can still make a difference. Was it the yelling of Americans who are weary of their kids being killed? Was it the yelling of citizens in our allied nations (whatever *that* means these days — someone we’re not bombing?) tired of being dragged into conflict by the U.S.? Whatever it was, it shifted Obama’s ear-fluff.

I’m sure it was a complicated bit of fluff, probably comprised of ego, politics, patriotism, compassion, anger, fear — desperation might be a better word. I’ll bet he felt trapped by his own line in the sand.

I used to have a boss who said that when he could see no solution to an office politics problem, he would “just throw a grenade and let everyone run around for a while to see what happens.” I never agreed with this approach, and I never saw it turn out well. Stupid office politics; even stupider international politics. Apologies to my male readers, but I think it had something to do with testosterone.

“I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit.
“No,” said Pooh humbly, “there isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”

And so, my fellow citizens, God bless America.

God bless Syria.

And God help us all.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A related post that conveys my thoughts in a much more intelligent way:  http://woodgatesview.com/2013/09/11/on-the-anniversary-of-911-a-victory-for-clear-headed-thinking/

This is my monthly contribution to Bloggers for Peace. Bloggers, why not sign up?

Far from Normal – Please Shut Up or Speak Up

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I want certain people to shut up, please, and I want more people to speak up. My mother didn’t allow us kids to say “shut up,” and I still consider it incredibly rude. But I’m saying it anyway, just this once. And I did say “please.”

Now that’s out of the way, and I’ll get on with my blog.

I don’t like being told what to do, but I’m going to write on the WordPress Daily Prompt challenge because it’s already on my mind. Here it is:

“Far from Normal…Take a step back, and take a look at your life as an outsider might. Now, tell us at least six unique, exciting, or just plain odd things about yourself.”

Radical, Lunatic, Way-Cold Mel

I had the opportunity yesterday to step back and look at myself from an outsider’s perspective. Fifty thousand outsiders, give or take.

I donned double wool socks, full-body thermal underwear, several sweaters, and a wool scarf and hat and went to D.C. for the humongous climate rally. In the frigid cold, we marched from the Washington Monument to the White House, clinging to our banners, posters, and flags in the whipping wind. Did I mention it was cold?

Some of my conservative friends have been poking me about demonstrating against global warming when it’s so cold outside. I guess they think there wouldn’t be any cold days if climate change was real. Jesus, God, and all who teach patience – please help me to love these people.

This is not funny. I’m the first to make a joke out of just about anything, but for real, for real, as the kids say these days – I do not have children; I am marching for your children. And your grandchildren. So please. Just shut up. Please.

These people think I”m a radical lunatic. They are Christians, too, but don’t seem to see stewardship of the earth as part of their calling.

Marching for Your Kids

Marching for Your Kids

Grandma with a Cause

Grandma with a Cause

Crazy, Judgmental, Gay-bashing Mel

Fortunately, a large and growing number of Christians have figured out that when God told us to care for the earth, God meant that we should — let’s see, how to put this — care for the earth?

Yesterday, I was to meet up with an interfaith delegation for a pre-rally; the “creation care” contingent. As I blogged before here, I think it’s important that environmentally aware people of faith speak up. So I made two signs, one from the Jewish prophet Isaiah and the other from the Psalms:

“The Earth is the Lord’s”

and

“The Earth Has Been Defiled By its People”

I rolled up the signs and boarded the metro to go downtown. A bunch of public health students with signs were in the subway car, and we got chatting. They asked to see my signs. I hesitated, but unrolled them, and the students suddenly got very interested in their phones and didn’t want to chat anymore, though I tried.

Through their eyes, I imagine I was a judgmental, gay-bashing, fairy tale believing, nutcase. In other words, a Christian.

It’s OK, I was going to meet other God-loving people. But it turns out I couldn’t find their rally, and was destined to walk the streets solo, waving my Bible verses.

Crazy, Lunatic Christian Me

Crazy, Lunatic Christian Me

Many people looked at my signs and glanced away quickly, as you might avert your eyes from someone who had peed on themselves. Especially the sign with the word “Lord.” That word is WAY out of fashion. I guess they thought I might preach at them. A few folks gave me a surreptitious thumbs up. That was nice.

So that’s the Christian me. Feeling judged and feared and avoided.

The Way-Cool, Fancy Mel

For a time, I marched next to a contingent of grandmothers who had flown out from California just for the march. They carried large photos of their grandchildren emblazoned with the words, “DO IT FOR ME.” I told one woman that I had been a lobbyist for the Sierra Club.

“Really? Are you kidding?” she shrieked. “For the real Sierra Club? Hey you all,” she nudged her friends, “she was a lobbyist for the Sierra Club. How cool!”

I guess it is. It really is. For several decades, I had a job that others dream of having.

Later in the day, I marched next to a scientist who had done studies on the climate-induced beetle outbreaks that are devastating Yellowstone’s forests. He, too, was amazed to be walking next to someone who used to direct the Sierra Club’s Public Lands program.

Students from North Carolina overheard this conversation and asked if I had met actual senators. Yes, I had. Had I met Obama? Yes, I had. They were impressed. But honestly, the senators weren’t that impressive.  Obama? He’s pretty cool.

So that’s the environmental lobbyist me. Lucky, blessed, right-place-at-the-right-time. For real, for real. I don’t think of it as all that fancy because I was there, but others clearly do.

Courageous (Crazy?) Returning Student

I met another man who had recently retired and was trying to decide what to do. I told him I had gone back to school and was working on a masters in writing at Hopkins.

“You’re kidding!” he said. (Why does everyone think I’m kidding?) “I was thinking of going back to school, but figured it didn’t make any sense at my age.”

Well, no, it probably doesn’t make sense. But I am having a blast and learning new things. What’s not to like?

“Isn’t that a crowded field?” Yes.

“Are you going to be able to make any money?” Not likely.

When I told him I wanted to teach at community college, he said that was a competitive field and somehow got off on how “illegal immigrants” are taking all our jobs. This time, it was my turn to get overly interested in my phone and find other company ASAP.

OCD, CIA, MOM

This post is already too long, and I’ve only gotten to three things that outsiders apparently thought were odd or unique or surprising about me. I’ll give you three more briefly, because that’s my writing challenge.

1.)    I have OCD and pull my hair out. I already told you that in Hey Girl, You’re Bald

2.)    I used to work for the CIA, despite my way-left leanings. I’ve told you that, too, at CIA Unrest.

(My first loves were named Gary, Dennis, Gary, Dennis and Gary. My last three were named Richard. I just thought I’d throw that in for extra credit because it amuses me.)

3.)    My mother passed away five years ago today. This does not make me unique or special. On the contrary, it makes me more fully human and more connected to our species. We all love and lose and grieve. I just wanted to tell you that I miss her today.

My Mom - isn't she pretty?

My Mom – isn’t she pretty?

Please Do Not Shut Up

I pray for our species, as some of us hide in denial about climate change, and some of us haven’t gotten around to doing anything about it. Which brings me to:

If you have even the teensiest hunch that climate change is happening, as most of us now do, please do something. Say something. Write a letter to your local paper. Write a letter to your member of Congress and your senators. It’s not that complicated; it’s not that hard.

Write a letter or make a phone call to President Obama. He’s making a big decision right now on the Keystone XL pipeline, which could waste millions of dollars, gash through some of our last remaining wild lands, and contribute massively to climate change. All to carry Canada’s tar sands to our Gulf Coast for export. Speak up.

Be special. 

Special People

Special People

Extremism in Defense of the Planet

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“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. The Nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

I might have agreed with Dr. King’s statement when I was a teenager during the Vietnam War, but it’s nothing that would have been ascribed to me as an adult.

Martin Luther King leaning on a lectern. Deuts...

Dr. King

Like many people, I have been taught to be wary of extremists. Stick to the center, stray neither to the right nor to the left, and you won’t get yourself in trouble. People won’t respect you if you stray from the comfortable middle. You won’t be listened to.

Unless you are an athlete or an energy drink, you don’t want to be viewed as extreme.

When I worked in environmental messaging and communications on Capitol Hill, we learned that the best way to side-line someone was to label them as an extremist. “Out of step” is a good phrase. Likewise, industry PR reps labeled all environmentalists as extremists — “elitist tree-huggers who want everyone to freeze in the dark.” We tried hard to represent ourselves as mainstream. Just a bunch of soccer Moms over here…what, you think I hug trees or something?? (I do, get over it.)

I’ve noticed that right-wing commentators are even calling the National Rifle Association “extreme” and “out of step” these days. Curiouser and curiouser.

In Praise of Imbalance

Last night in my spiritual book group, we got to talking about whether or not we can really make a difference in the world. Should we focus on our inner growth, become the best humans we can be, and trust that this will make the world a healthier place? Is it better to march in demonstrations and wave signs? Do you have to go to Africa and build an orphanage? Or is it the simpler things that count, like working at a soup kitchen or helping with Habitat for Humanity?

“Balance,” several intoned, followed by much nodding.

This may true for individuals; I’m not sure. But I am sure that balance doesn’t help a society or a world that is badly in need of change. Balance doesn’t lead to change, it maintains the status quo. In order to move from the status quo, you’ve got to have people out on the edges tipping the scales. The type of people who go on hunger strikes, who march in the streets, who refuse to sit in the back of the bus.

The comfortable people in the middle won’t like these troublemakers on the edge; they knock things off kilter. They will label them:

Extremists.

Getting Out of Step

I’m headed for the edge. I’ve changed my mind about extremists — I’m with Dr. King.

Look where “the norm” has gotten us. If enough people don’t get “out of step” pretty damn quickly, our planet is in big trouble. It’s not enough to just vote anymore.

Hand holding a world on fire

The oil and gas industry has more money than God, and they are willing to spend whatever it takes to stop action on climate change. It is up to “we, the people” to make this change.

Even my former employer, the well-respected but slightly stodgy 120-year-old Sierra Club, has just announced that it will engage in civil disobedience because the time is so short and the stakes are so high.

Creative Extremism

I think that when Dr. King talked about “creative extremism,” he might have been talking about the kind of extremist that creates new things, builds towards a new vision, rather than simply deconstructing and criticizing.

It seems we finally have a leader willing to lead towards that kind of vision. In case you missed President Obama’s inaugural speech on Monday, he spent more time talking about climate change than any other issue:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

THANK GOD!

There’s going to be a huge climate rally in D.C. on February 17th. I’m going to make some signs and go act like an extremist. Will you join me?

Find out more about it here.

You can also make calls to help turn out other extremists — ahem, activists.

And check out this video:

There’s No Such Thing as Quiet Racism

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English: Statue of Liberty Gaeilge: Dealbh na ...

Statue of Liberty (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

I remember prancing around on stage in some fifth grade extravaganza, singing “Aaaaamerica is a melting pot…” I think I was wearing a cardboard Statue of Liberty headpiece and stars and stripes of some sort.

Anyway, the song’s been stuck in my head since the election, and I’ve been wondering if maybe — just maybe — our nation might be entertaining the notion of pursuing its promise – strength through diversity.

Old White Guys’ Last Hoorah

I’ve been feeling hopeful about race relations. I mean, our African-American president has been elected twice. While conspiracy crazies and FOX News will no doubt find imaginative ways to insinuate, or say outright, that he didn’t *really* win, reasonable people know that this was no fluke.

Our president is a black guy, and I still think this is incredibly awesome. True, the white vote went for Romney in most states, but exit polls tell us that’s largely due to old white guys, which isn’t surprising.

They are seeing the America they used to know – the one where they were in charge – slipping away.

As Senator Lindsey Graham told the Washington Post, “We are not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long-term.” I guess Mr. Limbaugh isn’t doing his job.

God love them, but good riddance to those good old days.

Rush with his buddies

And Now For Something Completely Different…Or Not

How about we try something different? Let’s even go beyond “tolerance” and try for genuine relationships with people of different backgrounds than ourselves. How about that?

That’s where my hopeful head was when my friends and I arrived at a local Chinese restaurant this weekend. There were five of us, and I was the token white chick.

Here’s what happened: my friends were in front of me, waiting to order. I reiterate — I was in line BEHIND them.

The woman behind the counter pointed to me and said, “Let me help her first.”

We all looked at each other, puzzled, and then I said, “I’m with them.”

“Oh, sorry, sorry,” she said.

The first sad thing here is that it didn’t occur to her that we might be together. But what’s worse is that I’m fairly certain that if four white folks had been in line in front of an African-American, it would not have occurred to the server to take that last person out of order.  My friends teased me, calling me “the special person,” and we all laughed about it. But it was not funny.

“Welcome to America, Melanie,” one of them said.

Calling Out Racism

This isn’t on a scale with the Colored drinking fountains and washrooms I remember in Florida when I was a little girl.

And it wasn’t as egregious as the time a guy at a Maryland Christmas tree lot tried to sell me a tree marked SOLD because the purchaser was “only a negro lady.”

But it sure feels the same.

Sign for

We have a long way to go, but we can all help. Prayers are good.

And I just want to make a plea to my fellow Caucasians: keep your eyes and ears open. Speak up.

Don’t let people get away with this kind of “quiet racism.”

There’s no such thing as quiet racism.

It all screams, and we should all call it out.

Thanks for listening, and for hoping with me.

God bless our melting pot.

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